Jim2's Running Page

An Extreme Race

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The most extreme race that I have heard of was run in the 1980's. It was called the "Run For the Sun". It was both a marathon and a double marathon (52.4 miles). Participants could choose either after they started. The reason why will become obvious in a minute. I didn't run it. However, I had a friend, John Strumsky, who ran it in 1984. His description of his experience is still vivid to me.


The "race" was run on a generally straight east-to-west, point-to-point "course" in Canada north of the Arctic Circle. It started at a fishing camp and ended at an Indian village 52 miles away. The only access to both places was by small plane. The race had a single sponsor....a wealthy individual who underwrote the expenses, although the entry fee was a couple thousand dollars.


Participants were flown to the fishing camp by chartered plane the day before the race. The race "field" was limited to 25 participants because that's all that the plane and the facilities at start and finish could accommodate. The course, which ran through open countryside with absolutely no civilization between start and finish, was generally marked with widely spaced flags....but it was not marshaled. Participants also carried compasses.


There was a midway point where runners could opt to "finish" at 26.2 miles then be transported to the finish village via helicopter. Otherwise, there was no other support on the course and participants had to carry their own water and anything they wanted to eat.....sports drink wasn't used by runners at that time and gels didn't exist yet.


The course was so much "in the wild" that a helicopter was stationed at the entrance to one valley that was home to a large group of polar bears. It "escorted" each runner through the valley so its noise would keep them away.


The event was held in the summer when the area was mostly thawed, but a wide variety of weather and surface could still be experienced. My friend, John, experienced conditions that varied from mild, almost spring-like, to a 30-minute blizzard. Some sections of the course were snow and/or ice covered. Others were bare and rocky, including one lava field with an irregular surface with edges so sharp they shredded the soles of runners’ shoes and left them with bloody feet.


John was one of about 17 (I think) who ran the entire double marathon. After he finished, he just stopped and couldn't take another step. A couple of Indians picked him up and carried him to a bed in a nearby hut while muttering, "Crazy Americans!".


The soles of his feet were sliced up from the lava field and his socks were blood soaked. Still, he ran a mile the next day. Why? Because he had started a running streak 15 months earlier and didn't want to break it....and a minimum of a mile of running each day is needed to maintain a streak. Today, his streak, which he began 5/23/83, is still alive....it's 22 1/2 years long now. He also has two other streaks going.....one of running at least one race/month that will reach 23 years next week and another of running two-a-days that is 13 1/2 years long.


John is also the president of the United States Running Streak Association (USRSA), an organization that maintains "official" records of US running streakers. If anyone is interested in streaking....or running trivia in general....USRSA has a website at http://www.runeveryday.com/


One of my running "heroes" is a "retired" streaker. His name is Bob Ray, who chose to end his streak earlier this year at 38 years and 5 days, which was the longest streak on record. There is a post about Bob (A Runner's Runner) on my Running Page that I wrote for RWOL forums in 1997 when his streak reached 30 years. John, Bob and I are the same age. We knew each other and were competitors 16-20 years ago....but they have proven to be much more dedicated runners than I have been since then. :(